The main task of the sixth man in the NBA is to come off the bench and provide a spark — usually by scoring and/or stepping up the tempo of the offense. If sixth men normally don’t start games, they’re often on the court in the endgame.
1. ANDRE IGUODALA
He’s the exception to what has been traditionally expected of sixth men. Aside from being a reliable three-point shooter, Iguodala isn’t much of a scorer these days. But his contributions of phenomenal defense, clutch play and terrific decision-making put him at the top of the list.
2. JAMAL CRAWFORD
Not many of his peers are better at creating their own shots than Crawford. While his hot-shot streaks can carry his team for extended periods, Crawford’s defense is awful. Still, being a qualified go-to scorer for a second unit is an extremely valuable service.
3. BORIS DIAW
There are several reasons why Diaw is so high on this list: He can score in the low post and also from beyond the arc. He can handle and pass like a point guard (a position he used to play). He can also rebound and play more than adequate defense. So, then, it’s Diaw’s versatility, vision and veteran smarts that make him so effective.
4. BRANDON JENNINGS
His new role of being the primary point-maker on the Knicks’ second unit perfectly fits Jennings’ capabilities. As part of his sales pitch, Phil Jackson told Jennings that he could easily win the 2016-17 Sixth Man of the Year Award. And PJ just might turn out to be right.
5. MICHAEL BEASLEY
If he doesn’t pass or defend, and only has eyes for the hoop, Beasley is still a monster scorer. Just give him the ball somewhere near the right baseline and, more often than not, Beasley will get the job done. He’s in line to play a key role off the bench in Milwaukee after the injury to Khris Middleton.
6. ENES KANTER
A defenseless big man, Kanter earns his playing time by attacking the offensive glass and wheeling (but not dealing) in the low post.
7. MANU GINOBILI
At age 36, Ginobili is no longer able to drive to the hoop as often and as effectively as he did in his prime. But he’s still a clutch shot-maker, a scrappy defender and a meaningful on- and off-court presence for the Spurs.
8. PATTY MILLS
It won’t be long before Mills usurps Tony Parker as San Antonio’s starting point guard. In the meantime, Mills’ quickness, speed, shooting range, quick shot release and hot-footed defense are attributes that Coach Pop can always depend on.
9. RAMON SESSIONS
He might be a sub-par three-point shooter, but Sessions is a slasher who still can light up the scoreboard.
10. ZACH RANDOLPH
Slow-footed but still a force in the low post, Randolph can also score with mid-range jumpers and power-drives when he isos near the right baseline. Defense? Not much.
AL JEFFERSON and GREG MONROE have similar game plans — bang around and score in the pivot.
ALLEN CRABBE, who just might be ready to be ranked.
WILL BARTON, MICHAEL CARTER-WILLIAMS, BRANDON KNIGHT and ERIC GORDON are all productive guards, although the latter three have injury concerns.
Also, OMRI CASSPI, MARCUS SMART, MATT BARNES, SHAUN LIVINGSTON, DERRICK WILLIAMS, TAJ GIBSON and ED DAVIS.
It should be noted that, during the course of the season, some of the above might very well wind up starting. Furthermore, a guy like Evan Turner would be on this list if he comes off the bench, but some situations are still unclear.